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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

An editorial in the Washington Post recently discussed the qualities of students at Ivy League universities. Drawing on her experiences at Princeton University as an undergraduate and an additonal year at Yale Law School, Amelia Rawls generalized to students at all top notch schools. She stated that though she found the students to be inspirational, they lacked compassion. In other words, they weren’t very “nice”. While acknowledging the many accomplishments of Ivy League students, she also described them as hypocrites:

“Sometimes some of these students will denounce world hunger but be unfriendly to the homeless. They will debate environmental policy but never offer to take out the trash. They will believe vehemently in many causes but roll their eyes when reminded to be humble, to be generous and to “do what is right.”

I am glad to report that I’ve never felt that way about students at Dartmouth. They are incredibly motivated to do good in the world. While many do follow the path of corporate recruiting and investment banking, many others work for non-profit organizations. Every year, a significant number of students choose to join the Peace Corps or work for Teach for America.

A friend from Dartmouth wrote this reply to the editorial:

Amelia Rawls was far off the mark in her May 1 op-ed, “Best and Brightest, but Not the Nicest.”

In my experience at Dartmouth College, in the icy north where you’d expect people to be, well, cold, I have found more classmates than I can name who are caring, conscientious, compassionate and downright nice. And it isn’t unexpected, or impossible, that they are also strong-willed, ambitious and astonishingly talented.

I have every confidence that my peers will do a lot of good in this world. I’m sorry that Ms. Rawls doesn’t feel the same.


I’m glad to see that my experience is not unusual. The education at Dartmouth is not only stellar, but the students are wonderful as well. Perhaps the uncaring students of whom Ms. Rawls speaks are found in Trenton and New Haven, but I think most would agree (we’ll leave Ms. Venkatesan out of this) that here in Hanover, one finds students with not only intelligence, but a great deal of kindness.

ZAK adds: I just wanted to ‘correct’ or reinterpret one of Jenn’s implications. Jenn wrote that “students at Dartmouth. They are incredibly motivated to do good in the world. While many do follow the path of corporate recruiting and investment banking, many others work for non-profit organizations.” This, I think, implies that work for corporations or investment firms is somehow not in line with doing good in the world. I would amend the statement to read: “In seeking to do good, many follow the path of private corporations and others the non-profit sector…”


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